THE reputation of Kilkenny is being “tarnished” by the bad publicity football is attracting, it has been claimed, writes John Knox.
And unless the county turns things around sharply, Kilkenny’s involvement or otherwise in the British junior championship this summer could turn out to be really embarrassing.
Even before the Kilkenny minor footballers were walloped by 34 points by Kildare in the Leinster championship last week, County Board officials voiced concerns about the game, the negative publicity it was drawing and the lack of commitment to it.
“It is embarrassing,” insisted County Board chairman, Ned Quinn. “I am embarrassed. Our reputation is being tarnished, especially in the face of our achievements in hurling.”
The chairman was speaking during a discussion at the monthly meeting of the County Board during which Football Board chairman, Tom ‘Cloney’ Brennan revealed that the county was in danger of not having a team for the British championship which commences in June.
“The response from clubs is diabolical,” Mr Brennan told the meeting after coming from a training session at which a mere six players turned up.
“We are about eight weeks away from the start of the championship, but we have no team,” he added.
Mr Brennan said that the team manager, Christy Walsh (Bennettsbridge), a former Kerry and Munster hurler and footballer, and selectors Pat Mulrooney (Clara), Malachy Hogan (Kilmoganny), Eugene Dunphy (Mooncoin) anf Frank O’Meara (Muckalee) were ready to walk away from a situation that seemed hopeless.
“What are we to do if we can’t field a team,” Mr Brennan asked. “There will be a lot of red faces if that happens.”
The Noresiders opted out of the National League this season after a series of heavy beatings during the last campagin and subsequently in the Leinster under-21 championship.
GAA President Liam O’Neill took a personal interest in Kilkenny’s plight and helped accommodate them in the less demanding British championship involving regional teams in England and Scotland so that they wouldn’t have to opt out of the game altogether at inter-county level.
However, the county is now struggling to assemble a squad after weeks of effort to encourage clubs to get players to make themselves available.
Abandon the idea
“Maybe we should abandon the whole thing,” Mr Brennan said when he challenged club delegates to make an extra effort to get players to have a change of heart. “No one wants to wear the black and amber when it comes to football, apparently.”
Mr Quinn informed the meeting that the football team management had deliberately chosen Monday as a training night so it wouldn’t interfere with club training. Still the players were not turning up.
“We have to produce the players for the panel,” he insisted.
Tom O’Reilly, secretary of the Football Board, said they received the names of 67 players at the start who, it was suggested, might be interested in joining the panel. The figures didn’t stack up when the players were approached.
“There is training going on in clubs tonight and we can’t get the players,” he said. “Everything is in place. We can’t do any more. It is up to the club now to get behind us or we will end up with egg on our face.
“Go back to your clubs and tell the players to come in to training,” he urged.
One delegate wondered what could be done if players just didn’t want to join the squad.
Tommy Bawle (Dicksboro) said that the secretaries and chairmen of the County and Football Boards might make a personal approach to 24 players to get them to form a squad.
“All we need is a team to compete,” Mr Quinn said. “We are in a serious situation.”
Former county football manager, Dick Mullins (Erin’s Own) wondered would clubs have a chance of heart later seeing that June was free of major club hurling games.
“The players can play with their clubs until May 19 and then they could help football,” he suggested in reference to a break in the local leagues while the county teams prepares for the Leinster championship.
He was told that wouldn’t work because flights and accommodate had to be booked, and there was the added complication of having passports sorted.
“It will be very, very serious if we don’t get a team,” Ned Quinn insisted. “I hate to see our name being slated because of football. Other counties don’t have hurling teams, but they don’t get walloped for that like we do over football.”